Peaches’ latest electro-punk album is both explicit and explicitly feminist. Catherine Redfern reviews Impeach My Bush
If Girl With a One Track Mind‘s Abby Lee is the voice of the sexually empowered, assertive woman, then Peaches has to be the soundtrack – no question. The electronica superstar has won acclaim from feminists for her frank lyrics and uncompromising attitude towards women’s sexuality. She also scores points for not fitting in with the glamour model standards of beauty which lad mag culture demands of women before they can have an opinion on sex (or anything really). One of her tracks has referenced her cup size of AA, she’s donned a beard for the cover of one album, and photos of her regularly show pubic hair protuding unapologetically from her bright pink shiny pants. Wow.
Yup – those of a nervous disposition should definitely not read on, and those who think that twirling round a pole and styling yourself to look like Jordan is enough to count as female sexual empowerment are in for a shock.
In my opinion, Peaches’ first album The Teaches of Peaches was quite good but wasn’t necessarily overtly feminist. The track Fuck the Pain Away became the most famous from Teaches, even getting referenced by cult comedy act The Mighty Boosh and used in various film soundtracks. But it seemed to be considered feminist just because it was a woman singing explicitly about sex. So far so good, no problem with that, but on the feminist scorecard, could try harder.
I missed her second album, Fatherfucker, so I can’t comment on it. However, the title alone seemed to indicate her move towards more actively subverting the standard gender norms and double-standards by swapping things around in an attempt to make things fairer or highlight sexism that is taken for granted. A kind of Regender exercise for sex, if you will. On Wikipedia, she is quoted as saying:
Why do we stub our toe and say, ‘Aww motherfucker!’? What is a motherfucker? … We use it in our everyday language, and it’s such an insanely intense word. I’m not one to shy away from these obscene terms that we actually have in our mainstream. Motherfucker is a very mainstream word. But if we’re going to use motherfucker, why don’t we use fatherfucker? I’m just trying to be even.
But Impeach My Bush, released in 2006, has loads in it to appeal to feminists, with almost every track including some delicious twist on gender norms, or some kind of radical feminist sentiment. The lyrics of the first track Fuck or Kill, which feature the words “impeach my bush/impeach bush/impeach bush”, have got quite a bit of attention for obvious reasons, but it is sexual politics that are the focus of Impeach My Bush, not Politics with a capital P. And it’s all about turning things on their head to make a point.
Hit it Hard, which musically has to be my favourite track, because it’s totally brilliant, includes the line “make a woman a man and a man can-can”. Boys Wanna Be Her describes some rockin’ female star who inspires the admiration of boys and girls alike, in fact “the boys wanna be her” (as we all know, for a boy to want to associate with anything female is A Very Bad Thing). Yay, Peaches.
The lyrics are really hilarious in places and the sheer audacity of some of the songs leave you thinking: “Did she really just say that?”. Tent in Your Pants, in which she erm… praises a man’s erection, is very, very funny (and also funky) with lines such as:
I see something in your pants that can’t be real
don’t hold back baby tell me what’s the deal
I gotta move in closer and cop a feel
oh my you’ve got something with mass appeal…
the tent’s so big in your pants baby
gonna bring my friends for a dance baby …
if there’s a housing crisis then there ain’t anymore
This track again reminds me of Abby Lee, who wrote recently:
It’s 2007 and when it comes to sexual material for the heterosexual women, I’m bored of only being offered female imagery – as if everyone, men and women included, should find that stimulating…. I’m all for a more open and uncensored sexually liberated society, but if women are still going to be marginalised purely as objects for men’s pleasure and not as the subjects seeking and obtaining pleasure in their own right, then I’m destined to be a moody fucking bitch who will not shut up about it.
I would argue it’s not good enough to simply have things for women that are the same as they are for men now. For example, whilst I agree with Lee’s argument, I wouldn’t want a world where lad’s mags in newsagents were simply joined by the equivalent for women (we’ve seen what that would be like and it’s not a good idea). There needs to be an emphasis on freedom, fairness, equality, consent and respect for both/all genders and importantly, not intruding on anyone’s preference to be free of sexual imagery imposed on them in their daily life.
But I don’t believe that Peaches messages are about switching things around to the extent that women are as objectifying or disrespectful towards men as some men are towards women. Equality, fairness and consent are indeed features. In Get It, there’s a simple message: “you wanna get it/give it/got it? well it may sound like a simple idea but/to get it gotta give it”
Rock the Shocker is like a sexual technique lesson for men: “gonna let you in on a little secret/you gotta learn this little trick/get your hands and your fingers ready/stop relying on your dick… boys oh boys I’ll give you something to really flaunt/toys no toys I’ll show you what a girl wants”.
Two Guys (For Every Girl) is a track that’s had a lot of attention. At a time when in practically every music video you see sexaaay ‘babes’ groping each other, the cover of every lad mag magazine has two nude girls, breasts pressing together pouting, the UK’s most successful sex magazine aimed at heterosexual women (Scarlet) always has a woman on the cover and regularly includes pseudo-lesbian imagery, simply reversing the genders in this track actually IS subversive.
Come over here hot boys don’t you worry I’m nice…
i got a lusty proposition that I know will suffice
let me lay out this condition that I know will entice
i wanna take you home and get you satisfied…
just one thing i can’t compromise
i wanna see you work it guy on guy
i wanna see you boys get down with each other
i wanna see you do you’re lil nasty brother
Her interview in the February/March 2006 issue of Bust was one of the best, laugh-out-loud interviews with a musician the magazine has run for ages. In it she elaborated on this theme which she seemed to find particularly irksome:
Interviewer: Do you think it was at all empowering for girls to see Madonna and Britney kiss?
Peaches: It was good for publicity. I’d like to see Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams make out on stage; that’s way more subversive to me than seeing Madonna and Britney Spears. I think girls are so ahead. That’s what Fatherfucker was all about. It’s like, ‘boys, shake your dicks.’ How many songs tell women to ‘shake your ass’? Or, I’m watching those VH1 specials on ass and every time they mention a guy’s ass they’re like, ‘I don’t wanna see that, ehhh!’ But every time they mention a girl’s ass they’re like, ‘She’s got a great ass!’ It’s about time Pharrell Williams and Justin Timberlake or Snoop Dogg and fuckin’ Ludacris suck each others dicks for everybody to see, and release a video… I want every girl to go home with two guys if they want to. And I want two guys to impress the girl by making out in front of her.
If you’ve been stunned into shocked jaw-dropped silence by envelope-pushing lyrics like “slapping those dicks all all over the place/rubbing that shit all up in your face”, then the track Slippery Dick acts a reminder not to take things too seriously. “Slippery dick? It’s just a fish in the Atlantic… fist fuck cock suck/what’s the diff?” she says innocently, like, what’s all the fuss about anyway? I like to think this is a comment on double-standards and how different sexual practices are viewed and treated. Does it matter what you do and who you do it with, as long as it’s consensual? No. It shouldn’t matter.
Finally, Stick It shows one can be a superstar sexually adventurous one-track-minded female while still protesting injustice and all the negative aspects of the sex industry. Damn right. This track is most likely to appeal to the radical feminists as well as the anti-censorship feminists as she exhorts us to “stick it to the pimp”:
Forget that lady marmalade
i’ll fix you some peach lemonade…
say goodbye mac daddy
time to cry whack laddy
nice try saddy saddy
you’re just mitches and moes..
you’re gonna have to kiss my ring
you’re gonna have to ring my bell…
pissed in your pimp cup
We’re living in an age when trafficking for sex is a major serious issue and yet the word ‘pimp’ has become an acceptable verb and a song called It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp has won an Academy Award. Boo fucking hoo. If Peaches had her way it’d be much harder out there for a pimp, and I think that’s something we can all get behind.
For me this album has more staying power than Teaches, as I prefer the more electronic based, big-beat tracks than the more rockier, guitar-based ones which featured on Teaches (I haven’t even mentioned that it features artists including Beth Ditto and Joan Jett).
I enjoyed Impeach My Bush a lot. It made me laugh and it ticked all the right boxes (ahem). I guess I just won’t be putting it on when my male friends come round. Although… they have subjected me to ‘MTV’s sexiest videos’ round their houses many a time. Maybe it’s time to fix them some peach lemonade?